Car accidents create pain every day. More than 36,000 people died in a motor vehicle accident in 2019.

Don’t let this statistic scare you too much. If you perform a few basic safety measures, you can avoid most accidents. After all, that’s what defensive driving is all about. One approach is to create a space cushion.

But what really are the benefits of space cushions? What are the rules of thumb you should use when making one? What are some tips you can follow to create cushions on all sides of your car?

Answer these questions and you can keep a devastating accident from happening to you. Here is your quick guide.

Benefits of Space Cushions

A space cushion is empty space between yourself and another vehicle. You must create it by following safe driving practices. You can create one in the city and on rural roads.

Many car accidents occur because drivers follow too close to other vehicles. When the vehicle in front of them stops, they do not have time to apply the brakes. This results in a rear-end collision that can result in injuries.

Whiplash-associated disorder costs Americans $2.7 billion every year. Many cases occur through low-speed car accidents. Even a collision at 10 mph can produce a devastating case of whiplash.

Positioning your vehicle so you have room on all sides will help you avoid collisions. You can apply your brakes sooner or steer out of the way of obstacles in the road.

Space cushions will also help you maneuver on the roadway better. If you are too close to a car, it is difficult to execute a turn or change lanes. Leaving space gives you the room to do so, making your journey faster.

The 3 Second Rule

The easiest way to create a space cushion is to follow the 3 second rule. This is the most common rule for California following distance.

When you are driving on a roadway, pick an object like a bridge or streetlight. When the car in front of you passes it, start counting. It should take three seconds for you to reach that object.

The guideline provides a good rule of thumb during most driving situations. But it is not always ideal. You may need more space to brake and maneuver your car when you are driving during increased speed or inclement weather.

When driving on the highway, or when it is raining or icy, you should follow the 4 second rule. Do the same thing as the 3 second rule but allow four seconds to pass.

Vehicle Positioning Tips

Besides the 3 second rule, there are additional tips you can follow for positioning your vehicle. You should create cushions on all sides of your car, so you should familiarize yourself with positioning tips for all sections.

Front End

Do not exceed the speed of the driver in front of you. You should match their speed or go slightly below their speed. Do not go too slow, or you risk having a driver behind you pass too closely to you.

Try to avoid driving behind a large truck. They require more room to stop and they have a blind spot directly behind them. If you cannot see the truck’s mirrors, you need to change lanes or reduce your speed.

The car in front of you may have something tied to its roof or sticking out of its trunk. It is okay to drive behind this car, but you should be careful. Plan out how you will avoid the object if it falls into the roadway.

Use an on-ramp to match the speed of traffic. You need to accelerate, but you shouldn’t accelerate at too high a rate. Remove your foot from the pedal as soon as you match the speed of other drivers.

Sides of the Car

Drive your car on a road with as few cars as possible. A single-lane road will have fewer people on it than a multi-lane one. You also avoid the risk of somebody crashing into you while turning.

If you must drive on a multi-lane road, take advantage of high-occupancy lanes. Organize a carpool and use the lane. This lets you avoid traffic without worrying about someone turning in front of your car.

Change your speed so you are not driving right next to a car. Whenever you change lane, give a signal with your hands and your blinkers if you are riding a motorcycle.

Do not stick your hands out of a window. Do not litter or throw anything out to the side while you are driving. Under no circumstances should you race someone, as they may make a turn and crash into you.

Back End

Take a look through your mirrors and make sure no one is tailgating you. If someone is, use your turn signal and get into another lane.

Never slam your brakes, even if you think no one is behind you. This can cause someone or something to collide with the back of your car.

Apply your brakes over a couple of seconds. If you must get out of the way, ease your car toward the side of the road.

Turn off the lights inside your car so you have a good view behind your vehicle. If you cannot see through your mirrors, turn around in your seat and look over your shoulder. But make sure there is nothing in front of your car before you do so.

Learn How to Make a Space Cushion

Even a low-speed accident can cause whiplash or other severe injuries. A space cushion can save your life.

In general, you can follow the 3 second rule. Leave three seconds of space between yourself and another car. During poor conditions, add an additional second or more..

Do not drive behind a large truck when possible.

Learn all about space cushions and the 3 second rule in a DriveSafe Online defensive driving course.